Four years after his retirement, in the days leading up to the 2006 NFL Draft, Lomas Brown heard his name floating around the media again.
It was being mentioned in connection with another left tackle, the finest offensive lineman in all of college football, who had modeled his game after Brown.
The six-time Pro Bowler was flattered and instantly took a liking to the young left tackle from the University of Virginia, D'Brickashaw Ferguson.
"It's always a great compliment, any time a player says he watched you and he tries to emulate his game after you, so he already had me right then," said Brown. "I was willing to help him right then."
Brown, a teammate of Jets offensive line coach Mike Devlin for three years in Arizona, was brought into training camp to educate Ferguson about what it takes to be successful with their very similar body and, yes, personality types.
Both are affable, approachable and thoughtful in conversation. Brown, however, wants to see Ferguson compartmentalize his nice, easygoing self for the four hours he's on the field on gameday.
"I like to smile. I like to have a good time," said Brown. "But when you're on the field it's a flip and that's what I was telling Brick. You're going to have to be a butt on the field. I think for him getting more comfortable with what he's doing and getting more sound in his technique, that's really helped with his aggression a lot more."
Ferguson, just like Brown in his prime, is an athletic, long-legged tackle. But "Brick" had some difficulties keeping on weight during his rookie year because of his athleticism. Now Ferguson is right where Brown was during the first part of his playing career, at 305 pounds. Brown believes Ferguson won't have any trouble maintaining a good weight this season.
"I think one thing he's doing well is that he's got his mom cooking for him — that's definitely going to help," said Brown. "I remember my first years it was pretty much Burger King, McDonald's, you know, because I was a single guy living on my own. I think that it's good that he has his parents looking out for him to provide that home-cooked meal."
Brown experienced weight fluctuation himself, a consequence of knee injuries during his career. While two inches shorter than Ferguson and playing at a lighter weight than Brick for the better part of his career, Brown has always had a proportionally similar body. Thus when watching video, he found many similarities in the way teams attacked Ferguson last season and in the way defenses had attacked him.
"A lot of the guys will just try to power-rush you. They're not going to try to run around you. They're going to try to run straight over you," said Brown. "I look at Brick, being a similar body style, and I know that's how coaches pretty much are teaching to play against him, for their guys to bull-rush him."
Brown has not only helped Ferguson adjust his technique to prevent defensive ends from trying to power through him but also has shown him what he needs to do off the field to maintain that success.
"You've got to make sure you get your hands inside more so than outside, because if they're outside you're not really going to stop that guy. You have to be able to drop your butt a lot. With tall, long-legged guys like Brick is, that's kind of hard to do," said Brown.
"So there's certain things I'm trying to show him to go home with, how to study film, how to study your opponent, get tendencies from your opponent. It's just a lot of things I'm trying to cram into a few days with him. But again, he's a great listener and he's willing to learn."
In addition to being Ferguson's mentor, Brown has lent his ear to the Jets' many young offensive linemen. Each wants just a little piece of a man who one day soon may end up in Canton.
"Everybody's been asking questions, which is good. It makes me feel good that these guys are willing to listen to you and they want to hear what you have to say," Brown said. "I've kind of been spreading myself out."
"Now I never played inside, at guard or center, so I don't know what kind of advice I'm giving those guys. But I'm trying to help them out as much as I can."